Her Real ManBy: Natalina Reis
To all firefighters, here and abroad. You’re real life heroes. Thank you.
Real Men and Chicken
What was I thinking? The bulging muscles, the tattoos, the profusion of hairy body surfaces…. I was so tired of the super-buff, testosterone-oozing, romantic hero I’d been writing about for years. Yes, I was a stereotype: the lonely thirty-something woman who wrote those larger than life (and larger than trucks) male characters so she could retreat into her fantasy world and feel less lonely. Except I wasn’t into that kind of man at all. Like with everything else in my life, I liked moderation in the muscle realm. If a guy looked like he had managed to somehow inflate air into his biceps and pecs, I wasn’t interested. If the width of his legs had more in common with a tree than actual human limbs, scratch him off my list. If he was so built he could barely move without looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy, no way in hell!
I like my men slim with well-defined muscles, little to no facial hair—what’s up with all those Abe Lincoln beards anyway?—and human features. Not someone who is as beautiful as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings. I have nothing against beauty, but let’s be honest. Do I really want a man who is prettier than me?
However, my readers love the Hulk-of-a-Man, all hard muscle and features so perfect you have to wonder if they’re real. So, I write them in my stories.
For once I wanted to write a book about a real man. Why can’t I? I can, right? Who exactly is holding me back? Feeling the bubbling of a newly found rebellious streak, I decided to do it. How did I go about writing a real man? I had been writing about fantasies for so long I didn’t know where to start.
I jumped to my feet, grabbed my purse, and left. “A-researching I shall go.”
Since I’d been roped into writing about a fireman by my publisher, I headed to my local firehouse, notebook in hand and hope in my heart. But as I approached the actual building, my determination fizzed out, as if someone had poked a hole in the tire of my courage. By the time I arrived in front of the massive gray building, I was all out of air. I slumped into the low wall that ran just opposite the firehouse, shoulders hunched down and notepad in hand. Shit. I so didn’t have the guts to go inside and start asking questions of the men in the yellow hosen. I’m an introvert, for God’s sake! The longest conversations I’d ever had with a male stranger were in the checkout line at the supermarket.
“What are these called?”
“Parsnips,” I replied with an all-knowing smile.
“Are they good? They look like dirty white carrots.”
“They are very nutritious,” I said, with full awareness of my vegetable geekiness.
With an artistic flip, I opened my notepad, pulled out the mermaid pen I snatched from my novelty pen collection, and started chewing on its plastic blue hair. I took on a pensive look I was hoping looked mildly attractive, while my brain went into overdrive. I could at least observe the great firemen from across the street and take notes. What did they do all day when there were no fires to put out? Was there any truth to the idea firemen always ate well and had a resident chef? Was there a spotted dog in every firehouse?
Two tall figures, dressed in funky-looking beige pants held up with bright red suspenders, came out into the driveway. My interest perked up and I straightened my back just enough not to look like my grandma. The tallest one had a basketball in his hands, and he bounced it off to the other guy. Ah, a friendly game of basketball while they wait for the next great fire.
I scribbled some notes and returned my attention to the two. I couldn’t see their faces very well from across the street, but they seemed to be average-looking Joes, not the hot-to-trot firemen depicted in almost every romance ever published. Real men. The type I wanted to write about.
I should go talk to them. Maybe challenge them to a shoot-out. I remembered I was in heels and that I would rather poke out my eyes with a hot metal rod than address a male I’d never met with some random questions. I decided to stick to my notes instead.
I noticed them glancing at me every so often, but I couldn’t see the expressions on their faces. Are they wondering why there is a hot chick checking them out? Or maybe they are squabbling over which one should come and ask me out on a date. Those thoughts were the reason I wrote about things I knew nothing about. Kind of like Jane Austen writing about relationships when she herself never seemed to have had one.